Publisher: Performance Arts Press (April 1, 2011) ISBN-10: 0615462650 / ISBN-13: 978-0615462653
Shakespeare wrote many stories, and many have been written about him, but none quite like The Shakespeare Manuscript, based on the “Original Hamlet,” a play that actually existed and was being performed in London around the time Shakespeare arrived in the city. It vanished soon after and has not been seen in over 400 years.
The lost Hamlet suddenly reappears when the novel’s main character–the quiet, sedate April Oliphant–pulls a manuscript out of a crate of old letters, recently arrived at her family-run book store.
With the realization that it may have been written by Shakespeare, none of whose plays survives in manuscript form, April sets out on a course that sees her torn free from her moorings in a way she had only dreamed of before.
She assumes the Hamlet manuscript was sent by her father, who has gone to England on a buying trip. But he doesn’t remember a thing about the new Hamlet because he’s lost his memory, in part the result of a violent mugging in London.
While he’s recovering, April sends the manuscript out for expert opinion. One of the people she contacts, the director of a failing Shakespeare company, grows so convinced of the manuscript’s authenticity that he wants to stage this new version of Hamlet, and asks April, who secretly loves him, to play Ophelia to gain her consent for the production.
The more committed April becomes to her new role, the more committed the actors become as a company. In the end, they set about performing a passionate new Hamlet with singular and often moving consequences, but none more moving than those that catch April in their web
This story had so much potential, but it seemed to fail on its delivery. I persevered and read the entire story.
While the concept is fantastic and could lead to being a fantastic thriller or suspense, some parts of the plot were dropped or discontinued in a very abrupt way. Like the death of one of the main characters, wasn’t explained until late in the book. Another example is when the manuscript goes missing then turns up rather conveniently.
The characters also seemed a little two dimensional. April suffered from agoraphobia at the start of the book, but within a couple of chapters, she was keen to get out and become and actress once more. Then she was consumed with passion for a man and feared that he was having an affair with another.
The fact that April didn’t want to talk to her father once he returned to the US that made me wonder just where the story was going.
If you want to take the time to read it, please do. Others may enjoy it, I just found it a little lacking.